Dear Supporter of the Champion Christian High School Mission Trip to West Virginia:
As many of you might know, Champion Christian School is a place that is dedicated to helping students learn about the world around them, to understand and be able to integrate Christian principles in the daily scope of their lives, and to provide educational experiences that challenge them to learn and grow. We would like our supporters to see how mission trips have become important in our ongoing educational model. In fact, so much so that we have committed ourselves to attempt to provide four different but distinctly Christian mission experiences over a four year period for our high school students at Champion. This year was a trip to southern West Virginia in Appalachia. In the past we have been to the inner city of New York, Salt Lake City, Utah, Mexico, and last year, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. We want you to know how much we appreciate your support of the trip. At the end of March thirty-one of us left by bus to southern West Virginia. We chose Appalachia this year specifically for several important reasons. The first was that it is an area that our students have not been on a mission experience before with CCS. In our commitment to provide a variety of different experiences in missions, it provided a uniquely distinct opportunity for us to learn how Christ is being advanced in this region of the country. Another reason was that we are located geographically on the tip of Appalachia and we felt it would help us see our own spiritual and socio-economic cultural issues in a new way. Finally, with our last two years focused on out of the country trips, we wanted to focus on a domestic experience for our students. All of those goals were met in very significant ways. This trip provided us with an opportunity to experience prison ministry as we had an opportunity to see a medium security men’s prison and interact specifically with a group of men who were serving life in prison for murder. We also visited a Federal Women’s Birthing Prison where inmates who are pregnant come to have their babies and then stay through infancy. As usually happens, many of our students wanted to stay as they learned a love and concern for the population that they went to serve. We learned that the advancement of Christ has unique threads that run through every mission experience we take, but also very unique spiritual struggles that are reflective of the spiritual-cultural issues of the area that we serve.
Read on, as you hear the students first-hand experiences of how Christ impacted them. Thank you so much for your support of the Lord’s work in the lives of these students and in the life of Champion Christian School. Your support is so meaningful to them, not only in being able to go and help; but in them seeing that the Lord and people around them will answer their prayers for needs in their lives as they choose to follow Him in new ways!
D. Merle Skinner, Executive Director
Mission Team Comments
The Men’s Prison/ VOCAL
On our mission trip to Appalachia this year we visited a medium security prison. At the prison we got to listen to a group of murderers speak as part of a prison-run program called VOCAL. The prisoners told us how they had ended up in prison and how we should stay out of prison. It surprised us that we would be comfortable in a room with a group of murderers. It was probably because they were normal people just like us, who had just made several wrong choices. The biggest lesson we learned is that everyone messes up and there are consequences for every action.
The impact of the men on our team was significant. We learned of lives who had opportunities along the way to make changes, but who had resisted those changes time and time again. Our students applied some of those analogies to their own lives. The prisoners were blessed by our kids interactions, the good questions, the willingness they had to deal with them, and the issues surrounding their imprisonment. We heard later from Pastor Jerry that the prison authorities were impressed with our group, and the respect and interaction that they had. We were impressed with the opportunity that we received, and especially for Pastor Jerry’s hard work to build relationships so that mission teams could do this kind of thing.
We felt confirmed in the work that we do at school to help students take accountability for their actions, especially so as one of the inmates shared with the group (pointing at Mr. Skinner) that if the administration at Champion didn’t continue to expel students for behavior that they were not willing to take accountability for and change, then we were creating prisoners. That was especially significant to the adults who were at the group.
On Friday evening the mission team went to the host church to help with the Angel Food Ministries. When we arrived, we met the men who distributed the food to the church, and they assigned each of us to a specific job; some were inside the trucks to help load and unload the food, others were helping to count the number of boxes that stayed at the church and went back on the trucks. After we moved all the boxes into the church, we said goodbye and went back to our campground. On Saturday morning we went back to the church to help hand out the food to people who came. Some of the prisoners that we had met at the prison two days before were helping as well which gave us an opportunity to get to know them better.
As we all worked hard, we made friends in the process. Everyone was very kind and friendly, and we felt it was a very affirming experience for us. This was a great example where we saw the churches we were working with work hard to help their community. Although they didn’t need us, they worked shoulder to shoulder with us as we unloaded and re-loaded trucks of food. Although we found the people not to be outgoing, we saw their loving nature when we came to know them.
The Nursing Home
On Thursday evening, some of us went to the Marlington Nursing Home. We went to watch the Huntersville Baptist Church perform their Easter cantata for the residents. They did a great job, and the residents seemed to have a good time listening and swaying to the music. Afterwards, the church members invited us to sing with their worship team. Most of us went up and we sang three or four contemporary worship songs in addition to “The Old Rugged Cross” and another hymn. It was a very memorable experience for so many of us. We hope that the nursing home residents were in some way touched by our visit, just as we were touched by them.
One of the things that we tried to do was to learn more about the people and their lives. This was a very difficult thing as it is with many people. On Thursday night a small group of students got the opportunity to help out on a farm. When we arrived we met a good natured man named Dave, or, as we all know him, Farmer Dave and his very friendly dog Sadie. Dave got his huge tractor out and hooked a flat trailer onto the back of it so that the kids could ride along. We rode up to the barn that his dad had built to get some cow feed. This wasn’t an ordinary tractor ride though, because unlike most farms that are in PA, this farm was located mostly on hills with large rocks. As we rode up this hill we were all very nervous about falling off of the wagon. Many of the kids were holding onto each other for dear life. Mrs. Brant was the only one to keep her cool. When we got to the top of the hill, Farmer Dave said we could pet the cows if they would let us get close enough to touch them. Many of us tried but no one really succeeded. After that we took a ride over to the other part of the farm where he kept the cows that are pregnant. On the way over there he asked if any of us wanted to drive the tractor and that night a couple of us did. Man, was that fun! After we fed those cows, we threw hay off the trailer for cows in the field. We were throwing the hay as if we were tossing candy to happy children. Then we arrived at the horse barn. We petted the horses and he brought one out for us to ride. All of us got to ride it; some took more than one chance while Mrs. Brant held Sadie. We saw a different side of Mrs. Brant that night. She is really cool and down to earth. It was nice seeing that because at school you see her serious teaching side and not too much of the crazy side. Did you know she grew up on a farm? We all thought that was very cool. After we saw the horses, we were finished. I think we could all agree that we had a lot of fun at the farm and will always have a special place in our hearts for Farmer Dave. Unlike most of the people we met down there, he welcomed us into his home and let us help him. Through Farmer Dave we saw the love of Christ reach out to us in a way that was very difficult for this area.. He welcomed us into his home even though he wasn’t sure of us. Our group fell in love with him! We think he fell in love with us as well:)
Helping People, local things, and Shut Ins
Most of the people found it difficult to allow us to come to help them. On Friday we were split into groups to go do tasks around the area. Some of us went to meet at Pastor Jerry’s house. He drove several of us down to a widow’s house who needed firewood stacked for her furnace. The whole time we stacked firewood, she remained close by to talk to us and even gave us jackets when it began to rain. Once we were finished, we drove back with part of the group to the pastor’s house and helped him with garage work. Once that was done, we picked up the others who helped an elderly couple remove brush left from a storm the week before.
Several boys stayed at the Christian camp where we were staying to work two of the days to help them in their ministry. Even there, it was very difficult to find ways that they wanted our help. However, our guys got an opportunity to clear several areas of stream blockage and clean up winter damage to make the camp ready to serve the community. Of course, we had lots of fun while doing it.
The work we did that morning didn’t seem to make as big an impact as simply talking with them. I feel the time we shared with the elderly widow blessed her with our fellowship just as much as doing the work. We found it very difficult to find people who would let us help them. As we discovered during the process, pride is a very difficult thing to overcome. We find that to be true in our own lives in so many ways. We realized that is was much harder for people to let us serve Christ through them than it was for us to work. We are sure that is true in different ways everywhere. We even were able to convince Pastor Jerry to let us help around his place.
The birthing prison was the most heart-wrenching and joyous experience of our trip without a doubt. To be able to meet women who had made some significant mistakes and have them share their lives with us, allow us to play with their babies, to hear their stories, to have them share their heartbreaks, was significantly impactful to us. We found ourselves falling in love with little boys and girls who had never experienced life outside of a prison because their moms had messed up. We learned that some of the moms were there because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or had chosen some bad relationships and were charged because of conspiracy. It opened our eyes in new ways to choices that everyone makes.
In fact, as the seniors chose their topics for the campfire on our last night, they chose the topic of choices and their impact on us. It is everything from the spiritual nature of them, from where we choose to live, to how we behave, to whether we chose to listen to the Lord. It was indeed an awesome trip. We are looking forward to what God provides as an opportunity to do next year.
In Service To Christ,
Champion Christian High School
Appalachian Mission Team